Location: 923 E 3rd St Suite 109, Los Angeles, CA 90013. (213) 626-8888
Date: July 14, 2022
Cuisine: Modern French Bistro
Rating: Great fusion of flavors
Camphor is a modern bistro located in DTLA’s bustling Arts District led by Co-Executive Chefs Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George. It seems to merge French style with some Indian flavors.
Jeffrey and Erick and I, collectively the Foodie Club or Bottom Feeders, set off to try it out — and of course ordered almost the entire menu (as we are wont to do).
They are located down in the Arts District — ugly location, but a nice build out. It’s the same space that used to house Nightshade, another place I liked that shut down during the pandemic. Some of the owners and/or staff have carried over.
The interior. It doesn’t look that different than Nightshade did.
The menu and our marked up version.
1996 Robert Ampeau & Fils Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes. 92 points. Best attribute is a long finish, with good balance. Notes of white flower and tree fruit.
From my cellar: 1996 Robert Ampeau & Fils Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. 94 points. When they are on the wines are really incredible, this bottle was flinty and completely alive and delicious, everything you could want but the success rate is pretty much 50% on these wines for me so as long as you are comfortable with that reality they are worth seeking out, I’m not sure I’m going to be buying anymore myself. Even at 2x the average retail price on these which is basically what the cost is when you have to pour out every other bottle, they are still a relative bargain compared to any other older White Burg but it’s a frustrating experience opening them.
Amuse in the form of a light delicious foam in a chickpea shell. Very nice refreshing bite.
Saucisson with brown pepper. Tasty thin salami.
Baby shrimp “gunpowder.” Incredibly tasty little salty crunchy shrimp with a hint of curry and/or lemongrass and basil.
Clam barbajuan. Tasty, but the ratio of fry made it taste like there could have been anything in there.
Clams with garlic parsley butter. Quite tasty.
Tartare of beef with an herb tempura. This was a fabulous “creamy” tartare and particularly delicious on the crispy herbs.
Herb tempura to put the tartare on.
A5 wagyu otoro carpaccio. Also creamy. They like the sacues here.
Barbajuan of Dungeness crab. There was also probably spinach in there. I thought there was a nice (but subtle) crab flavor. The shell was great.
Sauces for the barbajuan of a creamy butter sauce and incredible pickled sweet Peruvian peppers.
Special onion tart with anchovies. This was very good, but not as good as Jeffrey wanted.
From my cellar: 1989 Daniel Moine-Hudelot Clos Vougeot. Amazing!
Special dover sole with brown butter beurre blanc with capers and bread crumbs.
They like to sauce at the table. Very soft and rich and delicious fish.
Lobster with coral bisque. Super tender lobster tail with a sauce that was basically lobster bisque.
The lobster claws in a ridiculously rich and delicious hollandaise-like foam.
Lentils and Lamb. Under this foam was a lentil soup with a hint of curry and a touch of lambiness. Not much meat but it was delicious.
1993 Domaine Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge.
Chicken with Thyme and chicken jus. This was a soft log of chicken and super delicious. The sauce was vaguely curry-like and so we called it the “curry wurst.”
Asparagus and béarnaise. Salty and good.
Special of layered crispy potato. This was great and the sauce beneath had a complex sweet and sour flavor that reminded me of chaat puri (the Indian street food).
Special of ribeye from a special source with a slightly different bearnaise sauce. Very nice meat but I was very full.
Soft sweet bread.
Chocolate and hazelnut. There was icecream and crunch underneath. Quite good.
Special of strawberry and cream in a crispy shell. Fabulous. Again, too bad I was full.
This was a super fun dinner, one of my favorites of the year, and I loved Camphor. First of all, I really enjoy these small Foodie Club/Bottom Feeders outings to new restaurants. They are free of drama and chaos of some larger dinners. Then I really enjoyed the food. It’s precise, and very very saucy — but I like saucy. Be prepared for it. Everything is sauced. Béarnaise, beurre blanc, reductions, it’s all there. But sauce adds fat, salt, and flavor to otherwise plain proteins. And I really enjoyed the precise French style paired with bolder more assertive Indian flavors, without getting too heavy. The DNA is mostly French.
Oh and our Burgundies turned out very well tonight. The 1989 Clos Vougeot was one of those magical wines. So lucky when those happen. Some people have complained that Camphor dish size is too small. This is actually a plus in my book and just an opportunity to order more dishes. Look at how much we got through with just three gluttons!